Capstone projects aim to connect theory to practice
Seema Kumar came to the Maxwell
School to pursue an Executive Master of Public Administration (EMPA.) Kumar, deputy
secretary at the Home Department, Jaipur, the capital of the Indian state
Rajasthan, hoped her executive education program would help her improve
government operations and assess an e-government initiative.
Her capstone project, "Transparent and
Responsive Governance To All: A Case Study of E-Mitra in Rajasthan," studied
e-mitra, an e-platform used throughout the state. The initiative, a public-private
partnership, is promoted as a model of convenience and transparency where citizens
can access more than 434 government and business services in a one-stop shop.
"My topic was very specific to my state,
so there was not much study material, but my interest helped me to explore it
further," Kumar said. "It was really interesting and enlightening to judge the
efficiency and effectiveness of this project."
EMPA courses helped her work with teams
and analyze feedback to understand problems team members face working on the
project. The project also improved her communication skills and drew from
courses that addressed policy analysis and e-governance. Those courses provided "clear reasoning and logic to show how it has helped in the improvement of
citizen service delivery and what more remains to be done to make it more
She called her capstone the “sum total
of my executive education experience,” adding, "I was able to use all the
experiences I gained in my various classes, particularly the managerial
leadership and the global civil society classes."
Kumar hopes her capstone will lead to
improvements to Rajasthan’s E-Mitra initiative. "I definitely want to use my
study to support and initiate the proposed changes and recommendations in the
actual implementation of this project in my state," she said.
Like many international students,
Kumar’s capstone focused on a topic related to the organization for which she
works, said Saba Siddiki, associate professor of public administration and international
affairs at Maxwell.
Successful projects typically include "availability
and access to topic relevant data and a well-defined and feasible plan for
collecting and analyzing project data," Siddiki said.
Concepts and skills used in the
capstone project test students’ "ability to identify and frame organizational
policy challenges, consider organizational or policy challenges through
different conceptual lenses, or various abilities relating to data collection
or analysis," she said.
Siddiki and Yilin Hou, professor of
public administration and international affairs, teach the capstone course, a requirement
for the EMPA program.
"This project should be the showcase of
all new knowledge and skills each student has acquired during the program
period,” Hou said. “I emphasize that this project is the steppingstone for the
students to rise to their next stage of career development."